The best bike sessions to do in winter

What type of bike sessions should you do in the colder, off-season months? Long and slow? Or some shorter high-intensity efforts? Nik Cook has the answers…

Young Man on Bike in Forest

Many people assume you should be riding long and slow over the winter. But is this right?

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Strict, steady winter base training can be effective for professional riders, who can log 30-hour plus weeks. The sheer volume they’re able to do provides the training stimulus and gives them the deep base of endurance fitness they require for the heavy racing load they have to contend with in-season.

However, even for pros, the concept of just doing steady work over the winter has largely fallen out of favour.

Should I do low-intensity sessions? 

For non-pros, who are having to juggle work, family and other commitments and can only probably manage 5-15 hours weekly, sticking purely to low intensity is a waste of precious training time – especially for triathletes who are also having to find time for swimming and running, too.

Training load is a combination of volume and intensity and, if both are low, you’re not going to be giving your body any significant training stimulus to adapt to. The only way to create training load on limited time is by including some intensity.

By taking this quality/less-is-more approach, you’re also far more likely to stay healthier over the winter, train consistently rather than binge and bust and, by not heading out for hours on end no matter what the weather, can keep your training a pleasure rather than a chore.

How should my bike training be split in winter?

So, what should you be doing on the bike through the winter assuming you can probably manage three bike workouts a week?

You should aim for two higher intensity mid-week rides, which, as the nights draw in and the weather gets worse, can be on the turbo. You can do structured workouts or, if you need the added motivation, try a Zwift race.

Most races sandwich a solid threshold effort between a hard start and hard finish – not particularly scientific but surprisingly effective.

At the weekend, if you can get out for a longer ride, brilliant, but it doesn’t need to be an epic 2-3 hours. It should include some focussed efforts and maybe some sprints, which is plenty to keep your endurance ticking over.

Don’t limit yourself to the road either, hit the trails – it’ll be far more pleasant and safer especially if it’s icy. If the weather is truly awful or you’re short of time, jump on the turbo. Ninety-120 minutes is plenty as there’s no freewheeling and, if you include some harder efforts, you can easily match the training load of a longer outdoor ride.

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Top image credit: Getty Images